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Side Hustle #47: Bakery Cake Decorator

by J. Money on Thursday, February 20, 2014

pirate cake

[Awesome guest writer today, Eunice M., as part of our Side Hustle Series]

At the extremely young age of 14, my best friend got her first job helping out at a local bakery for the holidays. Her sister had worked there and got her the job. I’ve always loved money so as soon I heard about it, I wanted in.

My first week was right before Thanksgiving — which is quite possibly the most intense week a bakery goes through all year. Pies, cookies, people running this way and that… it was a crazy-a$$ first week. My first job was filling sandwich cookies with chocolate fudge and then sticking them in sprinkles. After an incident where I ended up with the fudge all over my arm and sprinkles spilled on the floor (yay!… not), I stuck through and survived my first week.

The rest of the year was as easy as cake (get it? LOL). I would work evenings from 4-7 and weekends. I would help take customers’ orders, stock up boxes, and make little pastries. After about two years, I started helping customers whose cakes didn’t come out *exactly* how they imagined. I would try to make a buttercream flower here and there and eventually started asking the decorators for some tips. One day, a decorator just up and quit and I got promoted to cake decorator.

This is where I learned it all, the gates to cake heaven opened up. I learned the nitty gritty – how to make famous characters like Dora, Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Blue, etc., how to decorate wedding cakes – I even learned some fondant work! (Editor’s note: I had to look up what the heck that meant, haha… it’s pretty much how you make cakes so dang fancy!)

There were CRAZY early hours (4am!) and lack of benefits such as insurance, vacation pay, sick pay, etc. It was a small mom-and-pop type place and there were literally about 10 employees. I eventually decided I needed to move on to a more “adult” job and became a teller where my career flourished into the Accounting field.

Fast-Forward 5 Years later…

I would stop by the bakery here and there to pick up a cake, but never considered working there again until my boyfriend proposed and we had wedding expenses to worry about.

I decided to try and find a part-time job and after realizing most retailers were going to be paying minimum wage, I decided to check if the bakery needed some help on the weekends. It just so happened that a cake decorator was about to have a baby and they were looking for some help. A side hustle was born!

My Summer Side Hustle

fancy cakeI worked the entire summer before my wedding. I would go in on Saturdays at 4am and Sundays at 6am and leave whenever the work was done. This was as early as 12pm on some days, while others I would be there until 4pm. It all depended on the amount of orders there were that weekend.

It all looks very fun and pretty on shows like Cake Boss but really, it’s hard work. You’re on your feet all day carrying heavy cakes back and forth, and trying to work as quickly as you can.

The particular bakery I worked at had no air conditioning so sometimes the heat made you miserable and you needed to rush to get your cake done and back into the fridge. The conditions were rough and the work was hard… not that the money wasn’t sweet (see what I did there?)… ;)

How Much You Can Make

Over the summer I worked most Saturdays + Sundays and a rare Friday afternoon. My pay was about $12/hr. I averaged about 20 hours during the weekend so average pay was $240 per weekend and about $1,000 per month. Not bad for a side hustle.

Things I Learned

  1. Working at a bakery is HARD. It’s not a mentally hard job, but it is physically exhausting. My first weekend back at the bakery, I literally came home and felt like I had ran a marathon. Everything hurt! Luckily, I had a fab fiancé who gave me foot rubs on Sunday afternoons for the whole summer… which brings me to point #2…
  2. It SUCKS working two jobs, especially during the summer… before your wedding! I was hitting about 55 hours at my regular job as an accountant, and then averaging about 20 on the weekends at the bakery. Luckily, I couldn’t have picked a more opposite side hustle than my regular job – it kept it fun and interesting. With that said, it really sucked seeing my family/friends heading to the beach on the weekends, but it didn’t suck seeing the extra money in my pocket! I sacrificed my weekends relaxing for some hustling.
  3. No matter what job you do, I really believe 90% of the enjoyment of a job depends on the coworkers. Yeah, it was definitely nice having extra income but at the end of the day, I also REALLY enjoyed spending time with some of my old co-workers, side by side, drenched in buttercream like the good old days! LOL.
  4. There really are SO many different shades of colors. Seriously, I had a customer flip-out because her cake was not the right shade of pink. Customers place A LOT of importance on their birthday cakes, especially after all of these cake shows blew up on TV. You had to really focus and make sure each cake came out perfect or you risked ruining someone’s birthday or wedding day.
  5. As hard as the work is, there are some GREAT perks! My boss was extremely generous, and always offered me a free cake when there was a birthday in the family. You could pretty much eat all of the cookies/bagels/donuts/cake slices/cupcakes your little heart desired. He even ended up gifting me my beautiful fondant wedding cake! (Which could’ve EASILY cost me $600).

colorful-cookies

How to Become a Cake Decorator

If you take a couple of Michael’s decorating courses, it’ll get you started with the basics… but in reality, it’s about who you know! If you really want to give it a go, start at a bakery as a cashier. You’ll get familiar with the products that the bakery has and the staff.

Typically things that make you successful in a corporate environment aren’t always going to work in a small mom-and-pop type place, they want to see that you are just plain working your a$$ off. I remember when I first started, my manager could not stand to see anyone just standing around. Time is money, for them and for you!

You can always practice cake decorating at home as well. Wilton makes the best sets and is what we typically used. Don’t buy those weird plastic sets you see in those home shopping magazines – you might as well commit cake decorating suicide.

Lastly, make sure you can handle the crazy hours. Most bakeries open at 6am meaning you need to be there by 5:30am. Cake decorators started even earlier – at 4am in my situation.

In Summary…

All in all, it was a fun & simultaneously exhausting experience. I worked there for about 4 months so it ended up paying for our honeymoon and a few other expenses! It was great working for a company that knew I was getting married because I didn’t need to stress about getting time off for my bridal shower, bachelorette, and wedding. Also, they knew it was just for the summer so I didn’t need to stress about giving my two weeks.

As soon as the wedding came (September 1st), I was done working there. SO worth it, but I am happy to be done… for now  ;)

——
Eunice M. is a recent Hofstra University graduate and wife. She is an Accounting Supervisor by day and a domestic diva by night. ;) Follow her at on twitter at @eunified or connect via Linked-In.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I love this post for three reasons: 1) This girl was on a mission and didn’t let hard work get in her way. 2) She used every last penny from this gig to fund her goals, which is the best thing about *side* hustles! It’s all money to be used outside your normal job! And then 3) CAKE!!!!!!!

PS: If you’d like to see side hustles #1-46, click here.
PPS: If you’d like to share YOUR side hustle with us, please send me a tasty note here.

[Awesome pirate cake photo by mejane8 / All others by Eunice M. herself]


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 a terrible husband... February 20, 2014 at 5:44 am

Sweet! (Get it?)

I totally agree with your 3 reasons. Great hustle.

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2 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 8:53 am

I love the corny puns! LOL Thanks!!! :)

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3 Brian@ Debt Discipline February 20, 2014 at 8:30 am

Agree with #2, but thast part of the short term sacrifice for the long term goal. Ever consider making cakes on your own?

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4 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 8:55 am

I did and I actually created a couple of my own for ca$h between me leaving the bakery & my side hustle. It can be profitable but also time consuming because all the supplies are not as readily available (and as cheap!) as you can get in the bakery environment. I’ll still make a cake here and there but mostly for family & friends.

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5 J. Money February 21, 2014 at 10:46 am

Great question – Brian, was thinking the same thing! (And also great answer Eunice – def. makes sense :) Guess you gotta go ALL IN and pick up everything you need and in bulk to make it really worth your while.)

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6 Jon @ Money Smart Guides February 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

I worked 2 jobs once to help me get out of debt and it sucked. Especially since the one was in retail and the other was customer service for a mutual fund company. Since it was the holidays, it was crazy busy at both places. When I look back I question how I even did it.

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7 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 8:56 am

I totally know how you feel! Right before and after I worked this side hustle, I was also in school full-time. Not fun! The thought of it only being temporary always helped me get through! :)

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8 Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions February 20, 2014 at 9:24 am

Awesome side hustle! I just took a Michael’s cake decorating class so I wouldn’t mess up my son’s birthday cakes each year, and it’s incredible what a confidence boost it can be to take just 4 classes. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to create something tangible and tasty :)

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9 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

It def is so rewarding to make something beautiful, especially for someone you care about! :)

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10 J. Money February 21, 2014 at 10:44 am

Very cool! I didn’t even know they offered these classes until Eunice mentioned it in this post :)

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11 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life February 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

I think I would’ve just cut a few thousand dollars out of my wedding budget instead ;)

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12 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Oh, the joys of a New York wedding! LOL

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13 Becky @ RunFunDone February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

I always think that cake decorating would be a ton of fun, but based on my artistic (lack of) talent, I don’t think I’d be any good at it!

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14 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

You’d be surprised! You should give it a try, even on some cupcakes!

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15 Matt Becker February 20, 2014 at 10:53 am

Awesome! Have you ever tried to take your skills into the freelancing world? I know wedding cake decorators can make some serious cash.

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16 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I have but since I was doing a cake here & there, my supplies never really built up and it was $$$$ to do one every once in a while. I just bake for family & friends now! :)

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17 Michelle February 20, 2014 at 11:16 am

This sounds awesome. I don’t think I would be cut out for this though, I have no creative talent :)

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18 Mel @ brokeGIRLrich February 20, 2014 at 11:19 am

Cool side hustle. I would seriously weigh 800 pounds doing that though… but it might be worth it anyway ;o)

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19 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I actually gained weight *after* leaving the bakery.. surprising! It’s a physical job so that helps when it comes to burning all of the sweets you eat! LOL

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20 Steve February 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

Years ago, me and the Mrs. went out for dinner on my birthday. Afterwards we decided to stop by my parents house and there was a Baskin Robbins on the way so we stopped to get a birthday cake. The employee asked if we wanted the birthday cake to say anything so I said, sure, how about Happy Birthday to Me.

That got some odd looks.

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21 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm

LOL I could probably write a book on the weirdest things people have had me write.. Once it was “Happy Birthday A$$hole!” with a picture of a family. Very nice. LOL

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22 J. Money February 21, 2014 at 10:44 am

Hahhahaha…

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23 Cat@BudgetBlonde.com February 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

You are awesome for working soooo hard for your wedding! I’m really impressed and can’t imagine how tired you were during that time. I remember that my wedding cake and the grooms cake together were nearly $1,000. It was pretty astonishing, but for how hard bakers and cake decorator’s work, it makes sense!

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24 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Thanks! It was def hard work but it was so worth it! My day was perfect! :) I was sooooo exhausted though – working 7 days a week is not fun. The honeymoon was enjoyed!

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25 Crystal February 20, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Way to go! Sounds like you put the “hustle” in side hustle! I’m a whiner when it comes to being hot, so you get tons of respect points from me, lol.

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26 Eunice M. February 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

That was the worst part. The heat was 90+ most days, it did help to burn those extra pre-wedding pounds though! LOL

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27 J. Money February 21, 2014 at 10:45 am

No you’re not! If that was the case you’d never jump into those Chick-Fil-a costumes I know you rock ;)

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28 stephanie February 20, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Me too; I’d weigh 1000 lbs at least! I, too, am impressed by your attitude and the fact that, once you set your mind to it, you saw the hustle through to the end. And then you walked away. With some crazy awesome skills!
ps-if you want to make a cake for me, I’d be your bff forever and ever!

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